Decriminalization of Sex Work versus Human Trafficking

It is clear that the major argument against Prop K is the idea that the decriminalization of Sex Work would facilitate human trafficking.  I have been in Belgrade, Serbia for the past week and a half, where I have met interviewed a couple of different groups dealing with issues of human trafficking and sex work.  Their experiences showed that decriminalization of sex work would potentially help minimize human trafficking.  They had some very interesting things to say.

Here are some important highlights:

(from an interview with Jelena Dordeveic, of the Anti Trafficking Center in Belgrade, Serbia)

“We stopped working with trafficking, because we saw that trafficking became an excuse for NGO’s and police to restrain women,” said Jelena Dordevic, the Deputy Director of the Anti Trafficking Center, “The whole idea of trafficking turned against us and the people we were trying to support.”

“There is this perception that there are the right victims and the wrong victims,” said Dordevic, “Sex Workers did not agree to get raped, to not be paid.”

According to Dordevic, many NGO’s do not see individuals who choose to do sex work as qualifying for their services. The Anti Trafficking center sees this as a major problem, thus their focus has turned more towards those who are excluded from trafficking arguments, but are still at risk for rape and other forms of violence.

“Criminalization of sex work makes it difficult for people to advance their rights. It adds to stigmatization which leads to violence,” said Dordevic.

For the entire article, go here:

http://wendyvinaigrette.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/an-interview-with-the-anti-trafficking-center-belrade/

(from an interview with Elena Drezga of JAZAS, an NGO working with sex workers in Serbia)


What is the trafficking situation like here in Belgrade?

ED: We only have partner organizations dealing with trafficking, so we don’t approach that subject on a professional basis. Only if we see that someone who is obviously not on the field of their own will, then we refer them to the organizations. So, we do not have official data on that.

There was a major change in the sex worker scene after the murder of the premier in 2003. At that point, all of the sex workers from the Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, were practically expelled from the country, and we don’t meet them anymore on the streets of Belgrade, or in the strip clubs. They are not present anywhere. It was typical that those girls could be victims of trafficking in this area.

We do have a lot of refugees from Kosovo. They escaped from Kosovo during the 90’s and then established themselves in Belgrade.

WV: And if sex work were to be decriminalized, how would that effect the issue of trafficking?

ED: It would bring the subject into the open. The sex workers will be more visible, and that will be helpful for accessing all kinds of services. In that position, they will be able to reach the services that they need, and the services could reach them.

It would reduce the risk of trafficking. When you have invisible people working in invisible places, all kinds of manipulation and abuse can be present. If it is criminalized, then it is harder to see if there is violence and abuse of the individual.

For the whole interview, go here: http://wendyvinaigrette.wordpress.com/2008/10/31/interview-with-elena-drezga-of-jazas-an-ngo-working-with-sex-workers-in-belgrade-serbia/

5 Responses

  1. This is great stuff! Thanks for posting that, Wendy. Of course, this is so obvious to those of us in the industry. We are much better allies in fighting trafficking than people give us credit for. We can spot somoene in an instance who doesn’t belong. But why would we risk reporting a bad situation when we could be arrested or scrutinized ourselves?

    As it is, I know many in the online escorting world who won’t even speak to someone who has been arrested for fear of drawing the law enforcement demons to themselves.

  2. Great work W,
    now, how can we become more united globally and demand that decrim across the board as THE means to stop HT?

  3. Yes, we need to be more united globally, and continue to talk about these issues. We need to be a major voice in the human trafficking argument, in order to raise awareness about the complexities of it…and in order to prevent this misguided idea that deriminalizing sex work would somehow facillitate it.

    at the core of trafficking is poverty and discriminatory immigration laws. we need to also unite with other groups working on these issues, and mutually support one another. this is how we will all be able to create change…and along with it comes the decriminalization of sex work.

  4. Absolutely. It is imperative for the sex worker rights to take on the issues of trafficking. The anti’s have been hugely successful in gaining political and social attention and support for taking on the issues even though they are using hugely self centered, largely ineffective and often times very damaging methods that cause worldwide harm.

    We have a pragmatic, constructive and based upon life experiences approach but so many less people know we have a position on the issue.

  5. […] More from Bound, Not Gagged: Wendy Vinagrette, “Decriminalization of Sex Work versus Human Trafficking”: It is clear that the major argument against Prop K is the idea that the decriminalization of Sex […]

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